London is bracing itself for the G-20 meeting next week, as thousands of demonstrators prepare to descend upon the British capital. While most protesters will be peaceful, those working in the financial industry are being advised not to wear suits to work or even to stay at home to avoid potential violence.
Mirina Pepper has just been panhandled by a homeless man near London's Liverpool Street Station. She reaches into her handbag and grabs a bundle of £20 notes. "Here, you can give them out," she says. The homeless man looks perplexed at the notes, not knowing whether he should take this as a good or bad thing.It's funny money with the words "G-20 Meltdown" printed on it. They're flyers for a "Party in the City." Pepper gets the homeless man to agree to come the event next Wednesday and to bring along as many of his buddies as he can. Another homeless man just a few meters away experiences the same fate.
Pepper, 41, is responsible for organizing "G-20 Meltdown," a coalition of groups that plan to protest against the London financial summit next week that has even earned the respect of Scotland Yard. "They have some very clever people and their intention on April 1 is to stop the City," Commander Bob Broadhurst of the Metropolitan Police said last week. "They are innovative and we have to be innovative, too."
The policeman's concerns put a smile on Pepper's face. She's delighted by the idea of a cat and mouse chase through this city of more than 7.5 million people. "It's all a question of numbers," she says. Five-thousand police officers will be deployed, many in combat gear. It's the largest police operation the city has seen in 10 years. But there are doubts about whether that will be enough. Police will have to provide security for 22 world leaders, including the United States president, and 40 motorcades will have to be directed through the streets of London. In addition, dozens of embassies and hotels will have to be guarded, the conference center has to be sealed off from the public and the banks in the city's financial district will also have to be guarded from potentially violent anarchist protesters.
It's a mission with an incalculable outcome - after all, nobody knows how many people will actually turn up. Current estimates put the figure at about 3,000. That may not be a huge figure, but with technologies like Twitter and mobile phone text messaging, the demonstrators have become dangerously mobile. For weeks, protesters have been discussing possible locations for their actions in Internet forums and they have also leaked out names to the public. The idea is to send out decoys to throw police off, so that they focus their efforts on the wrong people.